What are the three formalist perspective elements in "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Formalist perspective is a way to consider writing not as a means to knowledge or discovering meaning, but instead concentrates on simply stating a position. One may definitely consider Hughes' poem from the formalistic perspective, though it is not generally the method typically used to analyze "A Dream Deferred."

Consider the first line: "What happens to a dream deferred?" The speaker here is not implicitly stating a way to understand the position of the dreamer; he is simply asking a question.

The speaker then mulls over a series of possible answers:

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Then, giving his thoughts another avenue, uses a simile to postulate that the "dream"... just sags / like a heavy load."

Finally, the formalist perspective can be used to interpret the last line of the poem. The speaker, having considered many possible outcomes, then wonders, "Or does it explode?" The speaker does not use his musings to offer answers. He states what he sees; if it is didactic, so be it. However, the words are like a snapshot of Harlem. Bring to it what you will, is what Hughes seems to say.